U in Review — Matchday 27: Philadelphia Versus Atlanta

In their very first encounter with Major League Soccer’s new boys, Atlanta United, the Philadelphia Union drew 2-2 at home, in what was the last home match of Summer.

After a demoralizing road trip for Jim Curtin and the Philadelphia Union, the Blue-and-Gold returned home, where they welcomed one of the new kids on the block to Talen Energy Stadium.

Fans inside TES were treated to the best of both worlds on Saturday night, after the home side took an early two goal lead on the visitors, only to drop to ten men and all three points, in the end.

Here’s how the table shapes up, following the 2-2 draw between United and the Union on Saturday night

Let’s get to it.

First Half

It came as little surprise to see the Union try to match United’s tempo for the first fifteen minutes. That being said, it was a massive (but welcomed) surprise to see the Blue-and-Gold jump out and take a 2-0 advantage just 25 minutes into the contest.

Class goals from Roland Alberg (18′) and Union captain, Alejandro Bedoya (23′) gave the home crowd an unexpected (again welcomed) source of optimism.

Things expectedly went South (no pun intended) just minutes — three, to be exact — later, when Yamil Asad smashed home a half volley (26′) past a hopeless Andre Blake, who made his return to TES tonight.

Second Half

It was second half Union soccer as fans have grown accustomed to, over the years. It was frenetic, it was ugly and it eventually imploded.

Josh Yaro brought down Josef Martinez just minutes into the Second Half, which denied a clear goalscoring opportunity and warranted a straight red card from the referee.

From the 51st minute onward, the home side were forced to play down a man.

Much to the dismay of many fans inside the ground, Curtin’s unit dug in and held on valiantly. Until a minute into stoppage time, that is, when the Union (somehow) managed to do what they do best: gift a late goal.

After Blake punched away an effort from Atlanta, the Union’s defense stood pat, hesitated and then watched as Tyrone Mears stormed into the box and lofted an equalizing header over their keeper (90 + 1′).

2-2.

Lad of the Match

It’s hard to name a Lad of the Match when the Union lose (at least that’s what this result felt like). But there’s no question, at least in my mind, that Jack Elliot put in another stellar performance.

An assist on Bedoya’s goal, in addition to an overall pretty solid defensive display, warrants UnionFanTV’s Lad of the Match award, this time around.

Elliot has certainly made his case to everyone in Major League Soccer that he is the Rookie of the Year.

What We Learned 

It was a night full of firsts.

For the first time in quite a while, I was able to attend a match as a fan. It was definitely nice to be able to take in the last match of the Summer with my father, before I head back to school for my Fall semester.

And the first meeting between Atlanta and Philadelphia was eyeopening, to say the least.

Yaro isn’t Ready

For the second time in a week, Yaro has cost the team with a poorly timed tackle.

Last Saturday, when the Union led San Jose by a goal, Yaro chopped down former Philadelphia midfielder, Shea Salinas, in the box. Chris Wondolowski would convert from the spot, in stoppage time to knick a draw for the Quakes and steal two points from the Union.

And then there was tonight, a clumsy challenge from behind that resulted in a straight red and the Union having to play down a man for nearly half the match.

Look, he’s got plenty of upside; no one is doubting Yaro’s potential. But he clearly isn’t quite ready to be a regular in Curtin’s team. And that’s OK. He’s young, he’s still unpolished. Time will be friendly to Josh Yaro, but the same cannot be said for the Union.

At this point in time, it’s the Union who cannot afford to play down a man for 45 minutes to one of the East’s most dangerous attacking sides, nor can they afford to drop two points on the road, especially given their abysmal record away from home this season.

Jack Elliot is Good

He’s Rookie of the Year good.

I think most Union fans have known this for a while now. But tonight, he restated his case, juuust in case anyone might have forgotten about the lumbering 6″5′ Englishman.

Soccer is a Hit in Atlanta

There was a pretty respectable contingent of Atlanta fans at TES tonight, and the Southern supporters were loud and proud throughout the first match between the two clubs.

So What’s Next?

Next up for Curtin’s boys is another historic meeting, this time with middling Western Conference side, Minnesota United FC. That one is slated for 8:00 PM ET, on Saturday.

If I were in Curtin’s shoes, I’d roll out the kids.

Let’s be real here: Curtin’s job is safe, at least for now, and after the Union clears house, he’ll have a January window to bring in the right guys who can make a difference. Not competitors, difference makers; it’s what this team sorely lacks.

Also, the Union aren’t making the playoffs this year. Forget if they mathematically still have a shot.

So play Adam Najem. Call up Adam Jones, and while they’re at it, pencil in Derrick Jones week, after week. Trusty? Get him on the bench. It’s clear this team is looking long-term, so why not play the future now?

Look out for the next edition of U in Preview, which will offer a closer look at both the Union, as well as the Loons. 

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